SHE may have been wrapped in four layers – there’s a distinct difference in the current temperature in Ayrshire to her native Arizona – but Cheyenne Woods cast a warm smile on Dundonald Links in the build up to the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open starting tomorrow.
Ahead of her first appearance in the £360,000 event, the 24-year-old spoke of her excitement about a visit to Edinburgh en route here, her liking for links golf even though this is her first real taste of seaside golf in a tournament and, inevitably, the continuing struggles of Tiger Woods, her uncle.
In a recent article in the Players Tribune, an American media platform designed to allow professional athletes to let off steam, Woods expressed her displeasure about constantly being compared to the 14-times major winner, having accepted it would be inevitable when she joined him in the professional ranks in 2012 but feeling it should now be “old news”.
Under her breath, she was probably cursing when the Scottish golfing media, having softened her up with some pleasantries and general chit chat, waded in with the Tiger questions but, in fairness, that smile never left her face as she happily delivered answers.
“As I turned professional, I expected to be asked about him a lot because I was new to the scene and that [the family link through her dad Earl Dennison Woods Jr, who is Tiger’s half-brother] might have been all people knew about me,” said Woods, who won the RACV Ladies’ Masters in Australia on the Ladies European Tour last year before earning her card for the LPGA Tour this season.
“But, as I’ve been out here, it’s been nice to have people starting to see me as an individual rather than the link to Tiger. I think that’s what the Players Tribune article was about, making the transition so people are able to move on. It is always going to be there and I’m never going to get mad or frustrated about it. But I feel me constantly being referred to as Tiger’s niece is old news.”
I feel me constantly being referred to as Tiger’s niece is old newsCheyenne Woods
While Woods is on the up in the ladies’ game, her uncle is in freefall, having slipped to 258th in the world after his latest disappointment – a missed cut in the Open Championship at St Andrews, where he’d recorded two of his three wins in the event. “It is difficult to see him struggle because I grew up watching him at the top of his game every single weekend,” she said. “When you watch Tiger Woods’ highlights, it is amazing to see what he was able to do and also the energy brought to the course was different to anyone else. I miss that and I’m sure other people do also.
“But that’s golf sometimes and it even happens to the best players in the world. Amateurs, professionals, we all have those moments where you have it one day then the next it just disappears.”
Woods, who is also hoping to qualify for next week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open a few miles down the coast at Turnberry, will have Catriona Matthew, the 2011 and 2013 winner, for company in the opening two rounds here, where the conditions, both weather-wise and the golf course, are somewhat alien to her.
“I’m still getting adjusted to the time and the weather,” admitted the world No 283, who had Earl, Tiger’s dad, as her first coach. “Back in the US it’s real summer. Where I live in Arizona, it’s like 110 degrees every day. This is like our winter so it takes a bit of adjustment with four layers on. This is like our off season.
“This is my first trip back to Scotland since I played at Kingsbarns two years ago in a qualifier for the British Open at St Andrews. That’s the only tournament I’ve played on a links course, though when I was in high school, we had a trip here and played a few courses in the St Andrews area. But I do enjoy the links game. I played an event in the US at Bandon Dunes, which is a links type course, and the wind forces you to be creative and tough.” During her visit to the title sponsor’s offices in Edinburgh earlier in the week, Woods gave a putting clinic to the staff and admitted she felt envious of the city centre views they enjoy. She’s already played 27 holes here and will get another round in this morning before heading to Royal Troon in the afternoon for a game with her caddie.
“The last year and a half has been really good and it would be amazing if I could win in Scotland, where the history of golf is so special,” she said. “I’ve not got any tips from Tiger about playing links golf, but maybe I need to text him tonight.”